Seville, Spain - A City with Passion, Flair & Theatricality

May 20, 2014

On a balmy summer night, the scent of orange blossom thick in the air, I listened to the passionate lilt of flamenco guitar accompanied by a seductive voice that permeated my soul. A mysterious gypsy dressed in a colourful, long ruffled skirt began snapping her fingers and stomping her feet in swift rhythmic movements. So profound was this experience that to my surprise tears began cascading down my face. It was my first experience of Seville and as I later made my way back to my hotel through medieval lanes, I knew I had fallen in love. 

Lying on the banks of the Guadalquivir is the capital of southern Spain’s Andalucía region – SEVILLE - a city whose romantic past is beaming with exotic influences, religious festivities, passionate Flamenco, bull fighting and world renowned tapas. It is the city of Carmen, Don Juan and Figaro and has a reputation for flair and theatricality that is befitting.
There is so much to be discovered in this fascinating city whose Arab legacy and Catholic heritage is proudly displayed in the city’s colorful art, architecture and impressive collection of historical sights: the Catedral de Sevilla, the Giralda Tower, Alcázar, Plaza de España, the Jewish quarter of Barrio Santa Cruz, and the Triana.

The Church of Santa Maria de la Sede, known as the Cathedral of Seville, is set like a crown jewel in the center of the old city and houses the tomb of Christopher Columbus. It is the largest Gothic building in Europe and the third largest cathedral in the world, after Saint Peter’s in Rome and Saint Paul’s in London. Beside the church is the minaret of La Giralda, this bell tower that is the symbol of Seville. Here you will find beautifully horse drawn carriages ready to take you on a romantic tour of this lovely city that I highly recommend.
Next to the Cathedral you will find the Alcázar. This royal palace is the legacy left by Arab kings who occupied Seville for over 500 years. It is regarded as one of the finest surviving examples of Moorish architecture, and was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Inside you will find striking ceilings and wonderful plaster-and tile-work. Outside (my favourite part) there are small linked gardens, flowers, fruit trees, pools and fountains. It is the kind of garden that draws you into a world of serenity and peace.
Another must see is the Plaza de España, Seville’s most impressive building after the Cathedral. This semi-circular brick square with four bridges and a canal that runs around the perimeter is known as the “Venice of Seville.” You can rent a row boat to relax and take in its grandeur. The inner part of the square showcases a series of glazed-tile depictions of historical scenes from every province in Spain. It is magnificent.

At night, the cobbled streets of Seville come to life with crowds of fun loving people who gather in the many tapas bars, restaurants and old-world streets to enjoy life. I’ve eaten some of my best meals in Seville. One of my favorite barrios (neighborhoods) is the former Jewish quarter - Barrio Santa Cruz - with its narrow, medieval winding streets and white washed houses. Another neighborhood with authentic charm is the Triana, famous for its azulejos (ceramic tiles). Once home to the city’s sailors, bullfighters and flamenco artists, it has a buzzing nightlife and great restaurant scene. Other barrios worth noting are La Macarena and San Bartolomé.

You cannot visit Seville without enjoying a stroll along the riverside promenade before heading to the Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza, the oldest bull ring in Spain, to see young matadors gracefully move around the arena as they unfurl their scarlet caps and captivate their audience. Though I personally found bullfighting to be a somewhat gruesome act, the ritual is a key part of the history and culture of the Spaniards of Seville. On one particular evening, I had the honor of meeting one of Spain’s legendary matadors who invited me to join him for tapas and drinks. All night people surrounded him in utter admiration, snapping pictures and asking for autographs. I felt privileged to be in the company of such a cherished matador and will always remember that evening with fondness.
After a day of sightseeing or an evening of dancing, I highly recommend a visit to the Aire de Sevilla for an authentic Hamman experience in an ancient roman bath. The ambiance alone is worth a visit. I’ve gone there with each visit and always look forward to returning again one day.  

Seville is filled with wonderful historical sites, beautiful boutiques and great tapas bars and restaurants. How lucky for us there exists a place so beautifully immersed in old world traditions and romance it takes your breath away…

When to Visit Seville

Seville is a great place to visit all year long, but keep in mind that summer temperatures can reach well into the 40’s. A good time to visit and witness the extraordinary flair of the Sevillians is during the annual Fería de Abril, a week-long celebration where you’ll see men parading on fine horses and women dancing in brilliantly colored gypsy dresses. There’s also the Holy Week, Semana Santa, where hooded penitents march in long procession followed by large baroque floats with 17th century images of the Virgin and Christ. This may be a religious festivity but that does not stop Sevillians from filling up the local bars and having fun until the early morning hours.

Day Trips

I highly recommend visiting the Alhambra Palace in neighboring Granada. Alhambra (al-qalca al-hamra) meaning the red castle for its beautiful crimson hue, was home to the Nasrid Sultans that ruled the region.  It remains one of my favorite palaces of all time with its lovely courtyards, ancient fountains, flower gardens and tree lined walkways.

If time permits, it is also worth visiting the cities of Cadiz, Córdoba and Gibraltar.

When possible, I like to end my holidays with a few days relaxing seaside and when in Andalucia that would be the seaside town of Marbella, the Costa del Sole’s most stylish beach resort. This lovely old town is sheltered by the hills of the Sierra Blanca and is home to many lovely boutiques, restaurants, bars and cafés where you can sit back and look beyond to the mountains of Ronda.  About 6 km further along the coastline, you will find the marina of Puerto Banús where the super-rich vacation in hilltop villas or laze around on luxurious yachts. You can relax on a beach or go sightseeing. The choice is yours. 


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